Video Friday: David Pearce on H.G. Wells’ Utopia
Intuitively, one might indeed suppose that lifelong bliss would make us weak. Contrast, for instance, the Eloi with the Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In practice, the opposite is true. “That which does not crush me makes me stronger,” said Nietzsche, but the best way to make ourselves stronger short of becoming cyborgs is to amplify our pleasure circuitry and enhance our capacity to anticipate reward. Experimentally, it can be shown that enhancing mesolimbic dopamine function doesn’t just make us happier: it also enriches willpower and motivation. This is how novel antidepressants are tested: if effective, they reverse learned helplessness and behavioral despair of clinical depression, the plight of hundreds of millions of people in the world today. Regrettably, low mood is bound up with psychological and physical weakness, just as popular stereotype suggests. Superhappiness confers superhuman resilience. So enriching our reward circuitry promises to enhance our capacity to cope with stress and adversity even as their incidence and severity diminish. Biotech can empower us to become supermen — not in the callous sense of Nietzschean Übermenschen, since our enhanced empathetic capacity can extend to all sentient beings, but in the sense of an indomitable strength of mind. Sadly, millions of people today feel hopelessly crushed by life.
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